Mapping The Coaching Carousel
May 19, 2011 1 Comment
The coaching carousel spins each and every offseason, for better or worse. Some coaches get fired, some retire, and even more move on for new challenges. A lucky segment even gets its first shot at a head gig. For the most part, the coaching carousel is nicely summed up in a series of tables and lists on prominent college websites. Then, as the college hoops news cycle slows down, several outlets ready their new coach profile pieces — a way to shine a light on the new faces at new places.
When folks prepare those pieces, I hope they read Matt Norlander’s two-part series on Sydney Johnson’s transition from the head coaching post at Princeton to Fairfield. It’s a thoughtful piece where the writer uses his access to give the reader an inside look at a process the average fan doesn’t know a whole lot about. To me, this kind of feature is far more interesting to read than someone grading various coaching hires, and I really wish more outlets would spend the time to provide such content.
Alas, the aspect of this piece that really hit home for me was the part on just how sudden lives can shift because of a coaching change. The coaching profession seems to be more volatile than most normal occupations, and that becomes apparent when Johnson details how he only spends one night out of the week with his family until they are able to join him in Connecticut.
In an attempt to see just how drastic these distances can really be, I put together a map of the coaching changes that occurred within the high-major conferences thus far this offseason. For the purposes of this website, high-majors include the six power-conferences as well as the Mountain West.
The first thing I noticed after completing this map was that a lot of coaches generally headed south. One can hardly blame them for seeking warmer climates. Clearly, though, Larry Shyatt (E) must have really wanted to coach Wyoming since he left sunny Gainesville to do so! Weather jokes aside, just about every new high-major coach has moved a considerable distance from his prior stop. The lone exception is Ed Cooley (A), who made the quick jaunt from Fairfield to Providence.
By The Numbers (High-Majors): Average Distance: 968.6 miles Shortest Distance: Ed Cooley (A) - 125 miles Longest Distance: Larry Krystkowiak (B) - 2,166 miles Oldest Mover: Jim Larranaga (C), 61-years-old - 1,053 miles Youngest Mover: Cuonzo Martin (G), 39-years-old - 612 miles
To think these men have had to juggle the pressure of taking over a high-stakes basketball program with the regular demands involved in moving is enough to make one’s head spin. And then there is also the consideration that their families are likely still in the previous town finishing up school, selling the house, and wrapping up all sorts of other loose ends. However, the great equalizer at this level is money. If you’ve ever moved, you know that having money can make things a lot simpler. And for the most part, individuals signing a contract a high-major do indeed have money.
Sadly, the same often can not be said of their coaching counterparts at the mid-major level. Here, contracts are more likely to be on the lower end of six figures rather than approaching seven. While that’s still a lot of money, moving around is no less easy here. One positive for the mid-major guys — at least during this run of the carousel — is that they aren’t moving quite as far as those heading to high-major gigs. Of the 31 coaching changes tracked as of this post, the average distance from prior job to new post is 630 miles. Excluding the guys who were promoted from within and thus did not move, the average is still just 751 miles.
By The Numbers (Mid-Majors): Average Distance: 630 miles Shortest Distance: Jim Hayford (Whitworth->Eastern Washington) - 24 miles Longest Distance: Clemon Johnson (Alaska Fairbanks->Florida A&M) - 4,367 miles Average Distance (First-Time Head Coaches): 614 miles Average Distance (Experienced Head Coaches): 670 miles
Another interesting fact revealed through these numbers is that coaches with past head coaching experience tended to move farther on average than first-time hires. Mid-majors tend to pull first-time hires from the staffs of larger nearby universities. For example, Florida Gulf Coast nabbed Andy Enfield from Florida State, and Northern Illinois hired Mark Montgomery away from Michigan State, one of the Midwest’s best staffs. The retreads and ladder-climbers of the bunch traveled longer distances by comparison.
As of this writing, there are still a couple of head coach openings out there, which ensures that the coaching carousel will continue to spin well into the offseason. Whatever becomes of those positions, there is sure to be a lot of moving involved, and not just of possessions, but of entire lives, for better or worse.